Speaking on Thursday before the US House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Africa’s hearing entitled, ‘Human Rights Vetting: Nigeria and Beyond’, the Specialist at African Affairs Congressional Research Service, Lauren Blanchard, said the Nigerian government and its military had not been yielding to America’s suggestions.
The Congress heard that the main impediment to America’s efforts to support Nigeria’s broader response to Boko Haram is “gross violations committed by the Nigerian forces, the Nigerian government’s resistance to adopting a more comprehensive approach to Boko Haram, and the continued lack of political will” within the government to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and hold perpetrators accountable.
Blanchard told the Congress, “The Nigerian government also has appeared reticent in some cases to allow its security forces to participate in US training programmes. The State Department indicates that there are currently 187 Nigerian military units and 173 police units that have been vetted and cleared to receive U.S. assistance and training.
“It is unclear whether the Nigerian government has given approval for such training to occur. A 2013 State Department audit report noted that, in addition to human rights concerns, Nigeria’s late submission of names of candidates for assistance was a ‘recurring problem’ for the US embassy.
“Multiple systemic factors further constrain the effectiveness of the Nigerian security force’s response to Boko Haram, notably security sector corruption and mismanagement, and some of these factors impede US support even for units that have been cleared for assistance”.
Among the cleared units, she revealed, were Nigeria’s Speed Boat Service commando and the 101st Infantry Battalion, which the ACRS specialist said were best positioned to conduct hostage rescue operations, but “both reportedly require significant additional training”.
She added that the security relationship between Nigeria and the US was hampered by the lack of cooperation and systemic failure in Nigeria. “The security relationship also has been hampered at times by a lack of cooperation from Nigerian officials and by systemic problems in the Nigerian military. Political and human rights concerns have been a prominent factor in shaping US-Nigeria relations for decades.
“State Department human rights reports have continued to highlight serious human rights violations by the Nigerian security forces every year. These violations include politically motivated and extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, and torture,” Blanchard said at the hearing.
Despite about N1trn ($5.8b) security budget, the ACRS specialist said the “Nigerian troops are not adequately resourced or equipped” to counter Boko Haram insurgency. During the hearing, the American disclosed that the troops were “slow to adapt with new strategies, new doctrines and new tactics,” and described Nigeria as “an extremely challenging partner to work with.”